Music piracy walks the plank


Graph of Chico State DMCA notices. Photo credit: courtesy of Information Resources and Information Security

While living in an era of countless options and apps for entertainment, we have developed particular ways to get music and media.

Whether that means paying the monthly subscription fee to Spotify, buying a popular album from iTunes or maybe saying hi to the friend who turned illegal file sharing into an obsessive virtual hobby with a USB drive in hand.

Presumably, we all know someone like this or more accurately, went through it ourselves. Needlessly hoarding files with discography and rare B-sides on an already overcrowded hard drive.

According to Music Business Worldwide, the music industry has seen the worst of illegal file sharing as worldwide revenue shows a steady decline in sales since they peaked in 1999. The same year Napster made its first release. Consequently, in 2015, industry sales settled at $15 billion worldwide.

Millennials have witnessed the evolution of illegal file sharing from its start nearly 20 years ago. In 2010, LimeWire had to pay $105 million to the record industry. In 2014 Pirate Bay’s frequent rising and falling of bit-torrent sharing ended with the founder, Pete Sunde, serving a sentence in prison. But let us not forget Demonii, one of the web’s biggest torrent search engines, suddenly disappearing last November.

“I think bit-torrent clients are currently under attack and I don’t think they are going to recover,” said senior history and political science major Michael Tovar.

To avoid the dreadful hassle of updating music libraries manually via USB cable, streaming apps like Spotify and Apple Music have ostensibly become the most convenient way to acquire songs and albums. However, illegal file sharing is still very much the route that some choose to obtain music files.

Measures have been taken in recent years to lower the volume of illegal file sharing. This includes the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act and third-party companies, like Warner Bros and Sony, sending notices called Digital Millennium Copyright Act warnings. The notices advise users to takedown illegally downloaded content.

Chico State wireless servers have been subject to such warnings, accurately targeting student ISB numbers where illegal file sharing has occurred. Information security sends out these warnings and made students acknowledge the violation. But even with multiple warnings often being sent out to students, the illegal file-sharing trend stays the same, going up during the semester and falling to nothing during the breaks.

Graph of Chico State DMCA notices
Graph of Chico State DMCA notices. Photo credit: courtesy of Information Resources and Information Security

“We don’t validate whether or not (the warnings) are accurate but they usually are,” said director and information security officer Mark Hendricks. “We pass it on to the student and by notifying them, it takes the liability away from us.”

Despite the record industry warnings and government initiatives, illegal file sharing still happens on campus and continues to rise worldwide. Some act with vigilance to defend the artists they love by buying records and merchandise, while others continue to download illegally.

“It’s all about how much you want to support the music,” Tovar said.

Yet there’s an undeniable shift in the way we interact with music, pushing towards something more personal involving social media interactions between artists, fans and the music. This singular connection looks like it’ll leave the digital consumerism age of copious amounts of peer-shared files and folders in the past with LimeWire and Napster.

Matt Manfredi can be reached at [email protected] or @matthewmanfredi on Twitter.